Saturday, June 8, 2019

The Twins Are Two

The Board of Directors celebrated its birthday this week. Okay, they're two, so "celebrate" might be a bit of a stretch, because they didn't really know what exactly was happening other than it involved cake and ice cream and some new toys. 

This is not my first parenting rodeo; I have two older children and a trio of grandchildren who are, in my completely unbiased opinion, geniuses. You know they'll be different-- different roll of the genetic dice, different life experiences. But this is my first go-round with twins. The boys are identical twins, carrying exactly the same genetic code in every cell. The boys have come as close to identical life experience as anyone could. It is absolutely fascinating to me to see what variation is possible within that genetic and experience framework.

Resting up in preparation for birthday shenanigans
They are physically distinct; Baby A is a little leaner, and you can definitely tell the difference when you heft them. It's not super-hard to tell them apart, especially if you can see both of them. Baby B is more tender-hearted; when he cries big and ugly, it's about disappointment and sadness. Baby A is more prone to an ugly cry out of ragey frustration. Baby A is more likely to fling himself off a cliff or up a wall; Baby B is more likely to want to stop and think about whether or not to go down the slide. 

In other words, despite everything being stacked in favor of these two children being two versions of the same person, they are two distinct and separate individuals. To motivate them, to soothe them, to encourage them, to clothe them, to guide them past a physical obstruction-- all these activities require two distinct approaches, two different sorts of sensitivities. 

I think of this every time I see someone touting a teaching approach that supposedly works every time for every child. "This is evidence-based science," they declare. "Therefor you just use this exact method and every single child will produce exactly the same successful result," they imply. Folks who still love their Common Core (whether under the original banner or under one the various assumed names that the Core has adopted as, I don't know, part of some bad policy protection program) have a solid commitment to the notion that if you tailor it just right, one size really will fit all. And there are still classrooms out there where someone is reading a damned script to her students, as if those scripted lessons are some sort of magic incantation that will cause learning to bloom in every single student.

Human beings are distinctly individual. Yes, there are all manner of aspects that we share in some important and fundamental way, but how we express those aspects, how we express ourselves, how we find our way to be fully human in the world-- those many differences result in an infinite variation in how humans can be human. 

Part of the corporate "be more like a business" push in education has been a push to clean education up, make it less messy, to get it all to function like a shiny industrial technocracy, and that impulse to create order out of chaos is itself a deeply human impulse. There have been days in my stay-at-home-dad career when I begged the universe to help the twins just stop acting like agents of chaos and destruction. I am quite sure the boys have hit the million-word advantage point if I'm allowed to count repeating "no" and "stop" 500,000 times as part of the million. So I get it. I do. 

But order and enforced standardization and impeccable one-size-fits-all neatness are not how education works, because that is not how humans, particularly young growing humans, work. Human beings are messy and complex, and all complex systems are inherently chaotic, and while chaos always lives in tension with order, imposing too much order is damaging to the system.

Because small humans are messy, teachers are messy and schools are messy. They still have to be safe, and that means ordered enough that the small humans don't suffer from the weight of anxiety and fear. But if you think you can come up with a tight, orderly, system that is scientifically standardized into a perfect state of uniform one-size-fits-allness-- well, you are kidding yourself, and before long you'll be ejecting teachers and students for being "defective" because they wouldn't fit like proper meat widgets in your system. And if you think the goal of schools should be to manufacture standardized meat widgets for future employers' use, you are way off base. And if you are an employer who thinks that your business should be run on readily available cheap and interchangeable meat widgets, you are part of what's wrong with our country.

I know. You were thinking this would be just a cute blog post about my cute kids. But the tiny humans are the point, and a daily reminder to me that tiny humans do not grow to be fully realized big humans in an inhuman system.  

Humans are different. I am watching two humans grow who have every reason to be exactly the same, and they aren't. They are two entirely different people, and I would hope that every teacher they every have treats them that way. And that goes for all of my grandchildren, and every other small human person who sets foot in a classroom. 


  1. I'm on adorable overload now. That picture is priceless!

  2. My twins are 22! Identical girls who, much like yours, began with one being slightly larger (2 lbs). Even though they like many of the same things, they are very different. Both have a 4.0 (they'll graduate in December) and they will both have the same degree when they're finished. Their teachers discovered their differences even when they couldn't always tell them apart. They have best friends who are identical twins and they can tell you the differences in them (we still can't tell you which one is which). While watching all these people who look alike express their talents in different ways, I also wonder why we think doing the same thing for everyone is the right thing to do.

  3. I often wonder, when I read about the next 'Big, New, idea', that is going to further standardize education, don't any of these people have, or know, more than one child? I would think it is obvious that all children develop differently, and while you Board of Director may be a near perfect experiment, it should not be that difficult for adults who live in the real world to figure out!